Living the Hamptons life
Baume & Mercier's 'Hampton' watches are inspired by this elite East Coast holiday enclave and its laid-back approach to luxury. The name 'Hamptons' has long been in the Baume & Mercier archives as an Art Deco rectangular watch launched by the firm in the 1940's is the starting point for the design of the current collection.
To get into the spirit of the Hamptons and get a real feel for the place, I visited the furthermost tip of Long Island last Spring, as Memorial Day celebrations were getting underway. At the end of Highway 27 just when you think the single lane road is going to disappear into the Atlantic rollers you arrive at The Hamptons.
Thick fog, the tang of fishing nets and the sound of the gentle lapping of waves reminded me I had arrived in The Hamptons on my first morning. A few s from my hotel room in Montauk was the weather-worn grey jetty of the marina where hundreds of leisure fishing boats were moored, bobbing patiently as they waited for their New York owners to arrive for weekend. Gulls cawed overhead, spoilt by the rich pickings from piles of lobster pots stacked up on the beach.
Long before the celebrities, artists and beautiful people set up holiday home here, the Hamptons had its place in the history of America. It is the first land that looms into sight after crossing the Atlantic from the Old World and the marshy land with shifting sandy dunes was originally inhabited by the hardy Montauket Indians who managed to scrape together a living. In 1868 settlers from East Hampton established Deep Hollow, the oldest cattle ranch in the United States. It later became an important fishing centre and as its wealth grew over-heated New Yorkers found refuge in its seemingly infinite beaches and its unaffected country ways.
This long, narrow spit of land with sea on both sides is almost all sky and sea and very little solid land. The unreal atmosphere captured the imagination of artists such as Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol who were drawn to its stark beauty as well as the quality of the light.
Evidence of times past is carefully maintained by the "Ladies' Village Improvement Society of East Hampton". White clapboard 'salt box' houses look picture perfect sitting on green lawns hemmed in by white picket fences. Even the Stars and Stripes billow more elegantly and grey shingles age with well-maintained grace. And if you are one of the few New Yorkers who belong, you will know that that only outsiders call it "The Hamptons". To them it is simply 'the beach'.
Without the long tides of Britain to contend with, summer houses are actually built on the beach. I visited the very grey-shingle and white frame house that appears in Baume & Mercier's advertisements. Weather-worn and sun-bleached the house looks as if it grew out of the very sand and fog of the beach. Through the window of the first floor bedroom the feeling is of looking out from the cabin of an ocean liner.
The house with its deep brown wide-beam wooden floors and rich maple-coloured window frames is painted unassuming white throughout and simple cane and wicker furniture filled with plump white cushions and liberally scattered with throws made we want to curl up and read one of the books on the library shelves. Rocking chairs, a big white brick fireplace and a dining room table big enough for at least 12 have generously accommodated long days and nights. Shell collections, hand crocheted cushions and stacks of books set the pace for a leisurely time and many moments of happiness.
With vistas so wide and days so long the Hamptons are the perfect antidote to our hectic lives so it is no wonder that Baume & Mercier has been inspired to extract the essence of this mellow place and keep it forever in a watch. The clean bold lines of the case and an uncluttered dial are complemented by natural tones such as soft grey and white, coppery brilliance or warm brown, all colours you would find on a walk along the beach. Diamonds are kept to a discreet minimum and both men's and women's models come in varying sizes and on skin or metal bracelets and with practical quartz or automatic movements. The look is classic with a contemporary twist and so at ease that any one of them will easily slip into the Hamptons lifestyle.